It’s November 2024 And Donald Trump Has Been Reelected. How Do B-Schools Respond?

Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted, says Trump’s brand is his “unpredictability” — the fact that he is known to change his mind quickly and unexpectedly, “so attempting to predict anything about him and the future where he is involved is more difficult than usual.”

However, she tells Poets&Quants, “there are a few constants in his rhetoric now and in the past. And sometimes the past predicts the future.”

Abraham points to several likely impacts of a second Trump administration. Among them: another sharp drop in international applications to U.S. business schools, just as was seen in his first term. “Obviously if a new Trump administration introduces visa restrictions or additional regulatory impediments to international student study in the U.S., they will further decrease international application volume. Application volume to non-U.S. business schools will likely increase.”

However, she says, the UK now has more restrictive rules for graduate student employment than it did in the late 2010s, so the home of London Business School, Oxford Saïd Business School, and Cambridge Judge Business Schoolamong many highly ranked others — is not as attractive an alternative.

A GREAT TIME TO APPLY TO A ‘REACH’ PROGRAM?

Candy Lee LaBalle, founder of LaBalle Admissions in Madrid, Spain, says she has had clients “who are avoiding the UK now due to their restriction on their spouses being able to obtain a visa, and that has led to some conversations about whether or not that could happen if Trump is re-elected”

Abraham notes that beginning about a year after Trump took office, the robust U.S. economy led to a significant drop in domestic MBA application volume. “Was the domestic decline due to Trump or to a booming economy?” she asks. If, in a second term, his policies lead to an economic expansion “or the economy expands despite his policies,” business schools will likely experience another decline in application volume, she says.

And that’s a good thing for MBA applicants.

“If application volume declines, expect schools to compete more for students whom they really want to admit,” Abraham says. “They will spend more effort and scholarship dollars wooing admits and trying to maintain their yield.”

Abraham does not think a second Trump term would have much impact on B-school curricula, because “that content is usually driven by employers (what they want employees to know), alumni (what they found useful and are willing to support), faculty (what they find interesting and want to teach), and occasionally the students (what they want to study).” And while Trump’s administration would likely pursue more vigorous enforcement of the recent SCOTUS decision ending affirmative action in admissions, “most schools have already adjusted their admissions processes to comply with that decision. I don’t anticipate much impact there.”

But that doesn’t mean Trump’s immediate impact on schools won’t be felt. Trump 2.0 could mean it’s a great time for applicants to apply to one of their “reach” MBA programs, Abraham says.

“A decline in application volume usually means it’s a great time to apply,” she says. “Applicants will be admitted to programs that they would not otherwise have been admitted to in a more competitive cycle, and they may also get more scholarships.”

UNCERTAINTY AND TREPIDATION FOR INTERNATIONAL & MINORITY CANDIDATES

Heidi Hillis, senior expert coach at Fortuna Admissions and a Stanford Graduate School of Business alum and former GSB admissions interviewer, is among several consultants whose concern over Trump’s political resurrection focuses on how international students will be affected — and how they will respond. Many of them, she notes, apply to U.S. MBA programs with the hopes of getting jobs in the U.S. after graduation.

“While current F1 visa rules allow graduates to stay for at least one and up to three years (in the case that the degree meets STEM requirements), there is a concern among many applicants that the Trump administration might change these rules, particularly with regards to people from Muslim countries, or from Africa,” Hillis tells P&Q. “Will people from these countries want to risk paying for a top MBA when they might not be able to get the high-paying job in the U.S. that they would need to pay it off? There are likely many who will decide not to apply, which could reduce the pool from these countries. As these are generally some of the best and brightest in the world, the U.S. will be losing some potentially wonderful immigrants.”

Alterrell Mills, a Fortuna coach and admissions volunteer who earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, says Trump’s reelection would immediately mean “increased uncertainty around what to write in their essays and what to say in an interview. Last cycle, I had clients who were worried about what they might be asked regarding current events especially if they had written about being Jewish or Muslim, or if they had names that could be perceived as Arab (and/or) Muslim. Even more so for a client who wore a hijab, and another client from the Middle East whose LinkedIn photo has him in more traditional attire.”

THE IMPACTS OF TRUMP 5, 10, OR 15 YEARS DOWN THE ROAD

Bill Kooser, director at Fortuna Admissions and former associate dean at Chicago Booth, agrees with Hillis that international students will face challenges in the job market in a second Trump term. He also thinks the international applicant pool is likely to be smaller “as a result of both restrictions on student visas and the perception that many potential applicants will have regarding animosity toward international students.”

“We saw some of this eight years ago,” Kooser tells P&Q. “I also expect schools themselves will have to jump through many more hoops to get student visas approved. Other possible issues concern potential regulations on how schools conduct themselves and operate (think DEI programs and affirmative action).

“What will this mean more broadly? Will this open up more spots for domestic students? Possibly. Will it have a negative impact on enrollments? Probably not for the top schools, but perhaps for schools lower on the rankings table that rely on international students to meet their enrollment goals. Will there be any backlash that affects international exchange programs or international study trips? Again, possibly, but I don’t think it’s likely.”

What about the long-term impact of four more years of Trump — five or 10 or 15 years down the road?

“As Heidi mentions, we are likely to lose out on some wonderful immigrants,” Kooser says. “What companies will NOT be founded here in the U.S.? What great scientific discoveries won’t happen? What will U.S. students lose from not having an understanding or connection to those from around the world? There is no telling, but if the U.S. turns its back on international students, we will certainly be the worse for it.”

A HOT TOPIC OF DISCUSSION

Candy Lee LaBalle, founder of mbaClarity by LaBalle Admissions, attended the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants conference May 27-31 hosted by IESE Business School in Barcelona, where the possible return of Trump was an informal topic. Among the attendees were representatives of 25 leading business schools including the top 15 in the U.S. “While I cannot share our informal discussions, I can say from a consultant perspective, working directly with international applicants (mainly Europe, Latam, and India), they are definitely including more EU schools in their lists, in part due to what could happen visa-wise if Trump is re-elected,” LaBalle tells P&Q. “There is a fear that it will be tougher to get a visa to remain in the U.S. And if that is the case, and they have to return to their country of origin, the worry is how they pay of an expensive USD loan with a local salary.

“I have also had clients who are avoiding the UK now due to their restriction on their spouses being able to obtain a visa, and that has led to some conversations about whether or not that could happen if Trump is re-elected. Finally, one client did wonder if it would be too dangerous to go there as a foreigner under Trump.

“Overall, I see EU schools getting a boost of applicants,” LaBalle says, though she adds that the leading U.S. schools — particularly the M7 schools — are probably in less peril from a widespread rejection by international talent of U.S. business education. “Whether or not Trump would dissuade someone with an offer at an M7 from attending is yet to be seen,” she says.

Next page: Thoughts & predictions about a Trump return from consultants at Admissions Gateway, Admitify, My MBA Path and more.

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